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Suicide Squad (2016) – Film Review

Suicide Squad (2016) - Theatrical Release Poster

Theatrical Release Poster

There are minor spoilers sprinkled throughout this review.

Warner Bros. Studios has (blessed?) us yet again this year in 2016 with their latest entry in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) titled Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. first (blessed?) us back in March of this year with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was utterly laid to waste by professional film critics and amongst everyday filmgoers it was a lukewarm reception to say the least. As for myself, I thought BvS sucked but I did enjoy it a little better than Man of Steel, which was Warner Bros.’s inaugural entry in their DCEU as well as their initial foray into the world of cinematic comic book universes. To this day, the world of cinematic comic book universes is being completely dominated by Disney / Marvel with Kevin Feige as their history-making forerunner. So you can see why Warner Bros. has been scurrying along quickly to get their own universe up and running.

They say that the third time’s the charm when it comes to navigating these treacherous waters of life. So how does Warner Bros.’s latest entry, Suicide Squad, hold up exactly? Let me tell you.

This may come as a shock to those that know me well, but I actually enjoyed Suicide Squad. Yes. I actually did. This film is currently sitting pretty (as of this review) at 27% critic approval on Rotten Tomatoes, a site that is continually growing in notoriety for a number of reasons,  many of them comical. But all of the complaints are 100% valid and I am in full agreement with those that greatly dislike or hate the film. I’ll give you a rundown.

Is Suicide Squad an overblown, overhyped summer blockbuster film?

Yes.

Does it suffer from the weight of too many characters?

Yes.

How crippling is the weight one may ask?

Crippling enough. I’ve been told there was a dude in the squad named Slipknot who was offed early on into the film. Beats the hell out of me.

Does the film have the same dreary look of the first two entries in the DCEU?

Yes. But I’d say its a bit brighter and more colorful this time around.

Is the plot incoherent, illogical or just plain convoluted?

I wouldn’t say so entirely, but the plot is definitely full of holes and contradictions, which makes for plenty of head-scratching.

Is the main villain lame?

Yes. And unintentionally comical. And her belly dancing / salsa moves could give Shakira a run for her money. Not kidding on this one.

Does the film’s ending tease us with the inevitable sequel / follow-up?

Yes. And it really made no sense either.

Are there post credit scenes?

Yes. But only one. That’s right folks. We’re getting a DC film universe whether we like it or not.

I know the tone of this rundown is very flippant in comparison to my statement on Suicide Squad but yes. I enjoyed the film. Why? Even though I am very aware of how truly flawed a film it is? The main reason is because I had fun while watching it.

Unlike a Zack Snyder film (the director of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and for some reason the helmsman of the DCEU) I didn’t want to slit my wrists during or after watching Suicide Squad despite the films title. For some unknown reason (I am sure Warner Bros. doesn’t even fully know) fun hasn’t been allowed thus far in the DCEU. Maybe it’s all just to counterbalance Marvel Studios or it’s likely because of Christopher Nolan’s realistic game-changing 2008 batman film The Dark Knight.

I don’t mind having darkness in tone, but one of the biggest problems with Snyder is that the first two DCEU films take themselves WAY too damn seriously. This whole grounded / realistic way of depicting DC comics on film means well, but its execution has been up to this point very poor.

With all this in mind, you can start to see why I enjoyed Suicide Squad. Although it had the dreary / depressing filmic look of Snyder, the film itself clearly had fun while still being serious when it needed to be. This film by no means is comedic gold, but I found myself laughing a decent amount of times. It felt good watching a DCEU film where fun was allowed instead of self-loathing seriousness mixed in with try-hard, reaching allegories concerning angels and demons found in Snyder’s films.

I won’t go deep into the comic book geekery regarding the origins of the Suicide Squad, instead I’ll be speaking on just the film itself. In short, the film is about an incarcerated group of meta-human criminals who are essentially being forced by Amanda Waller (a ruthless government official played by Viola Davis) to combat a force of evil. That’s the most I’ll say for those who have yet to see the film.

Will Smith (Deadshot)

Leading up to this film, all eyes were mainly on Will Smith (who plays the sharpshooter Deadshot), Margo Robbie (who plays fan favorite Harley Quinn) and Jared Leto (who plays the legendary Joker). Will Smith’s great enthusiasm to play Deadshot in this film was quite evident from the initial gossip. To a degree I felt his glee reeked of desperation. His filmography hasn’t been the greatest as of late (I did enjoy him in 2015’s Concussion) and it’s clear he’s just happy to not only be a part of a superhero film (because… duh) and for the fact the film will likely be a hit (which it is so far). Thank god he passed on Independence Day: Resurgence. That film is absolute trash.

So how was he as Deadshot? I thought he was pretty good. But the thing is, Smith was playing an upped version of his charismatic self but this time he’s an excellent hitman / marksman on top of that. How accurate is his Deadshot to the comics? As Ben Kenobi would say, “I am not the geek you’re looking for.” My exposure to Deadshot has been through mild personal research over the years. But I’ve always seen him as the silent bounty hunter type à la Boba Fett and my favorite portrayal of him was when he and Batman faced off in Batman: Gotham Knight. For those that do not know, Batman: Gotham Knight is a 2008 anime anthology of six short films set between the events of Nolan’s 2005 film Batman Begins and its 2008 sequel The Dark Knight. I highly recommend the anthology and the short centered around Deadshot was one of my top favorites. But overall I enjoyed Big Willy’s uber charismatic Deadshot and I’d say he provided the majority of the film’s laughs.

Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn)

So how was rising star Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn? Excellent. And for me she was the best thing about Suicide Squad. Her accent was spot on for the most part, she was quirky, clearly bonkers, sexy and completely infatuated with Jared Leto’s Joker (“Mr. J” or “Puddin'” as she lovingly calls him). There’s even an Easter Egg in the film throwing back to the famous Alex Ross artwork featuring her and Joker. It felt kind of off forced but it was a nice one for the fans that recognized it. And although there wasn’t enough of their relationship depicted in this theatrical cut of the film, Harley Quinn’s undying love of the Joker was very tangible and quite tragic like it’s supposed to be.

Jared Leto (Joker)

And lastly, what we’ve all been waiting for, Jared Leto and his own take on the Joker. Well sadly, I don’t have much to say on his portrayal because there really was not enough Joker in the theatrical cut. The amount of him in the film, for me, was a solid amount but still underwhelming. With all of Jared Leto’s well-documented method acting, overly edgy antics, and knowing how deep (too deep I believe) he went to portray the Joker it’s a shame knowing that so much of his performance was removed from the theatrical cut.

I am a fan of Leto and I feel his frustration. I also find his antics and the torture he put the cast of the film through to be funny from an outside perspective. But I don’t find it at all shocking how alienated he supposedly was on set and the ill feelings some (notably from Viola Davis) have towards him. It’s great knowing how seriously Leto took the role of Joker. Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger (especially so) are enormous shoes to fill. But it sounds like he really (really) needed to dial it down on and off the set.

David Ayer (Writer & Director)

And now onto the writer / director of Suicide Squad, David Ayer. Many are definitely talking about him but I am going to speak on him regarding things other critics are continually failing to take heed of in the first place. I was intrigued hearing that Ayer was signed on to both write and direct the film. Knowing his filmography like I do, Suicide Squad is very much a David Ayer film. I cannot stress this enough and I’m surprised how so it is.

Ayer’s filmography (both writing and directing) consists of Training Day, Street Kings, Harsh Times and End of Watch to name a few. These films mainly consist of crooked Los Angeles policemen (not including End of Watch), gang-banging, thug culture, drug dealing, drug trafficking, guns and street violence. With Los Angeles being what it is, these films are naturally urban with diverse casting choices. Ayer’s filmography is a definitive showcase of his strengths and Suicide Squad is a DC comics film told through the guise of David Ayer.

To start off, Leto’s Joker was a thugged out gangster decked out with bling bling. It was an odd and colorful hybridization of the various Jokers we’ve familiarized ourselves with but mixed with Ayer’s style. I completely feel with those that disliked (or hated) Leto’s portrayal of Joker, but it clicked for me during the film’s first club scene. This is a Joker I can easily see referring to Harley Quinn as his “Boo” or “Shawty” and a Joker I can see appearing in hip hop music videos. The latter part of what I just stated is actually true. See Rick Ross’s music video for the song “Purple Lamborghini” off of the official Suicide Squad soundtrack and you’ll see what I mean. So with all this in mind, does this make for a polarizing portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis? Hell yeah it does. Leto’s Joker worked for me because I understand David Ayer and his style. It will certainly not work for everyone and Warner Bros. should not be surprised at the backlash.

Diversity is another of Ayer’s strengths and it shines through in Suicide Squad. Will Smith and Viola Davis are veteran Black actors and would have likely shined on their own regardless of Ayer’s directing, but the breakout character in the film and new fan favorite was the Latino squad member named El Diablo (I’ll let you make a guess at his meta-human abilities). He was perhaps the deepest character out of the squad and one you could easily empathize with. Props to Ayer on this one.

Ayer’s been writing whiting / directing White characters, Black characters and Latino characters for years. So he has a handle on things. But there are a few jokes and passing lines of dialogue in the film concerning race that I could easily see triggering sensitive filmgoers. But oh well.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Suicide Squad is your typical oversized summer blockbuster superhero film. It is a mess of a film that I enjoyed because I understand David Ayer as a filmmaker and for the fact I had fun while watching it. Warner Bros. and the DCEU are still in serious trouble though.

There are others that share similar thoughts to mine regarding Suicide Squad, but again the film is being eviscerated by professional critics and typical filmgoers are being left divided down the middle once again. The DCEU is 0 for 3 and I find it hilarious that it’s all still moving along. But not all the hype leading up (and after) the release of Suicide Squad was welcoming.

The film underwent re-shoots in early 2016, to lighten the tone it has been said, and there are an overwhelming amount of deleted scenes that would have darkened the tone far too much.

Can’t be having that after BvS can we Warner Bros.?

There are also various cuts of the film and a trailer company apparently edited the theatrical cut. This would make sense given all the hit songs in the film and the incoherent plot. And all of Jared Leto’s psychological antics seemed to ruin him and the film’s atmosphere on set. If you do your research, you can see how many nutty things went on during the this film’s production. Leto’s antics just happen to be the most notorious.

My guess is that we’ll get an unrated ultimate edition of Suicide Squad on Blu-ray which will run close to 3 hours in length I’m sure. Just like BvS. This cannot be the norm for the DCEU. It’s entirely unacceptable and shameful in comparison to Kevin Feige’s handling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that they’re competing with. They are competing, whether Warner Bros. admits to it or not.

And as of this review, there is a rumor, by way of a letter, floating around from a supposed former employee of Warner Bros. stating how 2017’s Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot in the titular role will also be a “mess” and how it can’t hide behind the “great” trailer we all saw from this past San Diego Comic-Con. The letter also calls out Warner Bros. on how the studio continues down this road despite all the DCEU films being critically destroyed and not all that financially successful in the end.

I know nothing of the letter’s validity but it speaks the truth. I of course can’t confirm what has been stated regarding Wonder Woman but the DCEU has had so many problems from the jump it’s shocking how Warner Bros. ceases to stop and really fix things.

What else can I say man?

Us comic book fans deserve so much better than what we’re getting in regards to DC comics on film.

But as for Suicide Squad? You can watch it if you please.

I had fun with it but it was a mess.

As for Warner Bros.?

I have nothing left to say.

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